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Recent BurmaDoc entries

 Burma Issues, a Bangkok-based organization, maintains a documentation
center that archives a wide variety of materials (newspaper clippings,
reports, statements, press releases, books, videos, etc.) related to
Burma.  We currently have over 12,000 sources in our archives.  Every week
a summary of the past week's entries is made.  In the past, this list has
been used within the organization to keep our volunteers and friends
up-to-date on current developments. Each article is followed by an
abbreviation that corresponds to the source of the document, a date and a
code that corresponds to our internal indexing system used to retrieve
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that, in most cases, the document will take 1 to 2 weeks to arrive via
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Burma Issues
PO Box 1076
Silom Post Office
Bangkok 10504

Recent News Items & Other BurmaDoc Entries: 
9 May to 15 May 1997

Themes:  refugees & border security;  illegal drugs;  state-sponsored
propaganda;  art; human rights as they pertain to granting Burma Asean
membership;  restrictions on the international press;  the Yadana gas
pipeline and environmental issues; civil war and insurgency groups;
health;  politics and diplomatic meetings;  economics; tourism; Thai-Burma
border disputes; opposition groups, activism and NGOs; human rights

Refugees and border security
Officials say thousands of Karen refugees who fled fighting in Burma have
disappeared from camps in Mae Sot and Tha Song Yang districts in Tak
province.  An army source believes they have either re turned home or left
to work in cities.  The government's move to allow Asian immigrants to
work legally in 43 provinces helped encourage the refugees to escape.
Currently, only older people and people with young children are in the
camps.  The source thinks 15,000 refugees have left and another 1,500 have
returned to Azin and jaidong villages in Moulmein.  An additional 1,200
refugees have indicated that they want to be repatriated from Nu Po camp.
BP970510 OA/10G/038

Army Commander Gen Chettha reiterated the army's stance on security along
the Thai-Burma border, saying that to effectively prevent cross-border
attacks Karen refugee camps had to be relocated 10 kilometres deep inside
Thailand.  BP970513 OA/10G/039

Tak authorities will set up a security cordon around camps in Tha Song
Yang, Mae Sot, Phop Phra and Umphang in an effort to prevent further
intrusions into the areas by armed groups.  If a camp is in vaded the army
will be responsible for shooting at the invaders.  A 6pm to 6am curfew
will be instated and violators will face tough measures.  The planned
repatriation of 114 Burmese belonging to 25 families in Umphang camp, who
volunteered to return home on May 20 had been postponed because the
Burmese weren't ready to receive them.  TN970515 OA/10G/040

5,000 Burmese Muslim refugees defied tight border security to enter BA
because of a famine situation in Arakan state.  The Bangladeshi military,
however, denies the report.  Bangladeshi troops check all boats on the
Naaf River and deport Burmese refugees.  The reports of a new refugee
influx came amid continuing repatriation of Rohingyas.  A World Bank study
asserts that Rohingya refugees came to BA for economic reasons.  TN970511

Shogo Watanabe, Attorney at Law and Secretary General of the People's
Forum on Burma, explains the treatment of Burmese applicants for refugee
status in Japan.  Refugee's in Japan must apply for refugee status within
60 days of their arrival, but many Burmese have only been able to start
the pro cess several years after landing in Japan.  Burmese in Japan
receive short term visas that can't be re newed and are often overstayed.
The immigration office handles both refugee applications and deportation
of visa overstayers.  All of the 89 Burmese whom the lawyers' group have
assisted have been denied refugee status solely because they failed to
satisfy the "60 days rule".  In the past 16 years, only 50-60 people have
been admitted under the current system.  Refugee applicants receive no
special status but are not forcibly deported either.  Many employers avoid
visa overstayers, and overstayers can't join the national health insurance
plan.  burmanet970510 OL/10G/010

A jungle camp under the administration of Free Trade Unions of Burma
(FTUB) was burnt down by Thai rangers in an apparent attempt to coax
Burmese counterparts across the border.  lurie@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Illegal drugs
Dogs are being used to detect narcotics smuggled into Thailand from Burma.
Bangkok Post970514 OA/10J/048

State-sponsored propaganda
According to an advertisement carried in a state-run newspaper, Burma is
publishing a compilation of Burmese language newspaper commentaries
documenting the "political trickery" of Aung San Suu Kyi.  The book will
be out before the end of the month.  BP970515 OA/10K/005

In ancient times, Indian-influenced art in Burma was used as a means to
portray scenes from Buddha's life.  During British rule, western
techniques were introduced and the Burma Art Club was founded in 1914.
During this time, U Ba Nyan was Burma's first and foremost modern painter
who developed the "Rangoon School".  To the north a separate movement
known as the "Mandalay School" also developed.  Burma's cultural isolation
impacted Burmese art, even though some works may appear to use similar
techniques as Burma's western counterparts.  Some prominent artists
migrated to Western Countries, while others received government support
for their work.  Despite harsh political conditions, Burma's long
tradition of visual art flourished.  Recently art promoters have helped
Burmese artists show their work on the international level and western
interest in Burmese art is growing.  TN970512 OA/10M/001

Human rights as they pertain to granting Burma Asean membership
A group of Thai and international Human rights activists urged PM Chavalit
to reconsider Burma's bid for Asean membership and also the Yadana natural
gas pipeline.  The requests were made during a meeting with Sulak
Sivalaksa and the premier's secretary general Boonchong Weesommai because
Chavalit was unable to meet with the group before his trip to Burma.
Sulak urged Chavalit to engage Aung San Suu Kyi and warned that Thai
economic projects could be annulled if a democratic Burmese government
comes to power.  Gothom Arya added that Thailand should not hastily
repatriate the Karen refugees.  The US Committee for Refugees also called
on the Thai government not to let business interests dictate its treatment
of refugees.  TN970515 OA/11AA/006

Law professor at Chula. discusses ASEAN's haste to admit Burma, Cambodia
and Laos in spite of major human rights concerns about Burma.  Also
reviews half-hearted moves in the past on the part of ASEAN countries to
take a stand on human rights.  ASEAN countries have consistently stopped
short of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, leaving a definition
of human rights up to national interpretation, allowing each country
'peculiarities' in its definition of 'human rights'.  TN970514
OA/11AB/001and   Newsweek970512 OP/9CAA/002

Restrictions on the international press
The Slorc made it clear that its Information Ministry would watch the
movements of 15 reporters who accompany Chavalit on his visit.  The regime
said reporters should avoid going to ASSK's house or reporting on her
activities.  Chavalit's entourage includes 42 representatives from the
Foreign Ministry, industry, Chamber of Commerce, banking and Petroleum
Authority of Thailand representatives.  BP970515 OA/11G/003

Burma's junta which has cancelled its last two monthly news conferences
for foreign journalists, is mulling new ways of dealing with the media.
The monthly briefings have coincided with uprisings or unrest related to
the opposition movement.  BP970513 OA/9A/020

Civil war and insurgency groups
Border Patrol Police seized rocket launchers and 30 AK47 rifles believed
to belong to the KNU.  The weapons were found near the Thai-BU border in
Umphang district.  They were buried on Hill 1242 near Ban Thoeng Moeng in
Tambon Mae Chan.  This was the second cache to have been found in less
than a week.  An effort is being made to find hidden weapons to prevent
them from falling into the hands of criminals or smugglers.  BP970511

On May 9 fighting broke out near a borderline traveller's rest house close
to Bong Ti.  The next day, 12 Slorc soldiers entered Bong Ti "to buy food"
but the Border Patrol Police didn't allow them in.  On May 12 fighting
broke out between the Karen National Liberation Army and Slorc at the
traveller's rest house and it was reported that Slorc troops are still
staying in that area on the Thai side.  Mergui/Tavoy Information
Service970512 OR/12FA/013

The Yadana gas pipeline and environmental issues
The Kanchanaburi Conservation Group resigned from the National
Environmental Board because being a member would make it more difficult to
monitor and prevent any environmental impact caused by the pipeline.  The
KCG is upset that the National Environmental Board has no actual authority
compared to the pipeline developers.  An earlier proposal to wait three
years until the pipeline's Environmental Impact Assessment is finished was
rejected because the Petroleum Authority of Thailand had already signed
and international contract with the Burmese government.  Other NGO
representatives threatened to resign if the Petroleum Authority of
Thailand doesn't reveal all the information about the pipeline project.
TN970515 OA/13D/001

The Kanchanaburi Conservation Group accused the Petroleum Authority of
Thailand of lying and of failing to provide clear and adequate information
regarding the Yadana natural gas pipeline.  The KCG eventually pulled out
of the sub-committee set up to monitor the impact of the pipeline and
other NGOs have also threatened to pull out unless the Petroleum Authority
of Thailand is better equipped to provide information to the public.  A
local conservation group found that the pipe was thinner than the
Petroleum Authority of Thailand had claimed in its Environmental Impact
Assessment while a member of the Forestry Department complained that the
Environmental Impact Assessment is lacking in detail and that some data
isn't based on academic research.  BP970515 OA/13D/002

Burmese doctors have performed the country's first successful kidney
transplant.  Doctors from Rangoon General Hospital and North Okkalapa
hospital performed the operation on a 41-year-old woman.  TN970510

Politics and diplomatic meetings
Texas House of Representatives State Affairs Committee just passed a
"Selective Contracting" bill to the full House.  In addition, Texaco
recently suggested to shareholders that it's looking for a way out of
Burma.  Both are indications that divestment from BU/Slorc is gaining
momentum in the US both with private business and increasingly with US
city and state governments as well.  burmanet970515 OL/4EC/011

This week NYC Council is scheduled to decide whether or ban financial
dealings with companies that do business in Burma.  Activists say the NYC
vote is the most important in a "selective purchasing" campaign against
Burma.  The activist community is confident that Bill 647 will be approved
as it has the support of City Council President Peter Vallone.  NYC's
34-billion annual budget has often enabled it to have an impact on
important political and Human rights issues.  Almost every multinational
corporation in the world does business in NYC.  Recently the Colorado's
senate approved a resolution calling for the state to discourage
purchasing of goods or services from businesses active in Burma.  Similar
bills have been introduced in Texas and California.  Pressure against
Texaco, Unocal and Arco is growing.  At Arco's last shareholder meeting, a
resolution challenging Arco's presence in Burma received 9% of the
shareholder votes.  The Slorc continues to ridicule both selective
purchasing efforts and sanctions saying other companies will replace
American firms.  burmanet970512 OL/9CB/010

NYC City Council passed Bill #647A by 50 votes to none opposed.  The bill
makes NYC the 13th US city to adopt selective purchasing legislation
against the Slorc.  The states of Connecticut and Texas are also
considering similar legislations.  However, Unocal is using the NY law
firm of Davidof and Malito to lobby against Bill 647A which needs to pass
the mayor's office.  The mayor's administration has twice testified
against the bill, but City Council members are confident they can override
a mayoral veto.  Similar bills have encouraged some multinational
companies to divest from Burma.  New York Burma Support Group970514
OST/9CB/001 and The Rangoon Post970515 OL/4ED/006

PM Chavalit will discuss several economic issues, including US sanctions,
when he makes an official two-day visit to Burma starting on 970516.
Official sources say the PM will assist Burma during US sanctions,
encourage Thailand investment in Burma, and discuss various TH/BU projects
such as the Thai-Burma bridge over the Moei River to Rangoon and several
deep-sea ports on the southern Tenasserim coast.  TN970514 OA/4A/002

During his upcoming visit to Burma, Thailand PM Chavalit will witness &
sign agreements with Burma on border crossings and jurisdiction of a
planned friendship bridge between the 2 countries.  The border agreement
covers checkpoints at Kawthaung\Ranong, Mae Sot\Myawaddy, and Mae
Sai\Tachilek.  Chavalit will also reaffirm that ASEAN's intention to admit
Burma, Cambodia and Laos.  BP970514 OA/4CD/015

UN Assistant Secretary-General Alvaro do Soto arrived in Burma for a
four-day visit.  He last visited Burma in 1995 and is expected to meet
with Slorc leaders and Aung San Suu Kyi.  BP970509 OA/9CC/004

According to NLD sources, Aung San Suu Kyi met with Alavaro do Soto, UN
assistant secretary-general for political affairs for two hours.  De Soto
is on a three day visit to discuss national reconciliation and Human
rights.  He met with Rangoon-based diplomats, Khun Htun Oo (chairman of
SNLD) before Aung San Suu Kyi.  However, De Soto and Khin Nyunt failed to
make a scheduled meeting.  TN970510 OA/12AB/001

In Rangoon, assistant UN Secretary-General Alvaro de Soto met with Khin
Nyunt at the Ministry of Defence, but no information about the meetings
was released.  TN970511 OA/4ED/010

Mr. Alvaro de Soto's visit to Burma is an important event by itself.  He
met with both the military leadership and Aung San Suu Kyi.  His visit
coincides with a critical juncture in Burma -- the military is in a
rebellious mood ignoring UN and western criticism over its Human rights
record.  Foreign Minister Ohn Gyaw maintained the government line that
there are no Human rights abuses in Burma and that Western Countries and
the UN are trying to interfere with Burma's internal affairs.  The NLD
used the opportunity to discuss growing repression including the crushing
of a student protest and ASSK's virtual house arrest.  The NLD argued that
political conditions worsened after Burma gained Asean observer status
last year.  Asean Foreign Ministers will meet at the end of the month in
Kuala Lumpur to discuss Burma's admittance, but Asean sources say they are
more concerned about the political developments and problems in Cambodia.
burmanet970511 OL/9CC/001

As temperatures rise in Burma, a quiet sense of unease flows through
Rangoon and Mandalay.  Universities remain closed and the situation
remains volatile after anti-Muslim rioting in several cities throughout
Burma.  Barricades have been removed from mosques and night curfews
lifted.  The Slorc claims the events over the past 8 months are part of an
attempt to sabotage Burma's Asean membership.  Some diplomats think Aung
San Suu Kyi will have a much harder time once Burma gains Asean
membership, partly because countries like the US will have less leverage
against Burma.  TN970510 OA/8B/007

North Korea has sided with Asean in opposing a US ban on investment in
Burma saying that "sanction and pressure cannot be a solution."  North
Korea "considers that the Asean nations' position supporting Myanmar's
Asean membership reflects their independent determination to reject
other's interference and solve their problem by themselves."  BP970510

Thai Democrat Party MP Sukhumbhand Paribatra remarked that Cambodias Asean
membership shouldn't be tied to that of Burma because each observer
applied on its own conditions.  He added that "as Asean is considering the
three observers as a package, the grouping should not try to use Cambodias
internal conflicts as a possible cause for not accepting the three.
Cambodia should not become a victim of Burma which is still administered
by a military junta."  MP Sukhumbhand recently returned from a diplomatic
visit to Cambodia.  He believes Asean might use Cambodias internal
conflicts as an obstacle to granting the Cambodia, Laos and Burma
memberships when the real problem is Burma's internal political situation
and poor Human rights record.  TN970509 OA/9CAA/076

According to the New Light of Myanmar, another NLD member who had been
elected to parliament resigned yesterday.  Since last year, more than 30
NLD members of parliament have resigned.  TN970509 OA/9D/001

Myanmar pressed the Asian Development Bank to resume economic assistance
to the country, saying the regional lending agency has failed to look
squarely at Myanmar's political situation.  FreeBurma@xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Asian Development Bank president defended his policy of not lending to
Burma, citing as two major financial problems with the country Burma's
military-run exchange rate and fiscal policy.  BP970514 OA/4B/001

Thailand will sign a memorandum of understanding in July to buy
electricity from Burma for 10 years.  PM's Office Minister Sompong
Amornvivat visited Burma and agreed with Energy Minister U Khin Maung
Thein to buy 1,500 megawatts of electricity per year from Burma as long as
the power comes from power plants which have at least 25% Thai holding and
the construction of power lines used in the delivery of energy to Thailand
must not affect the environment in Burma.  Burma also agreed to Thailand's
request to pump water out of the Salween River for Thai consumption.  Mr.
Sompong said Thailand will also hold detailed negotiations regarding the
purchase of natural gas from AFCO's field south of Tavoy.  BP970510

Thailand has agreed to buy 1,500 megawatts of electricity from Burma
during the next 10 years.  Representatives from the two neighbouring
countries will sign a memorandum of understanding in the purchase in July.
Thailand has already agreed to buy natural gas from Burma in a pipeline
project that has been criticised by Thai environmentalists who say it
passes through forest reserves.  In a separate agreement, Burma has
allowed Thai Airways International to increase its flights to Rangoon from
12 a week to 14.  TN970512 OA/4EC/036

The New Light of Myanmar reported that Burma's chamber of commerce and
industry condemned US economic sanctions and expressed regret that Aung
San Suu Kyi supported them.  The chamber asserted that Burmese businesses
will get along fine despite the sanctions.  TN970512 OA/9CB/060

The University of Wisconsin System divested about US$240,000 worth of
stock it owns in Texaco after the Board of Regents endorsed a "socially
responsible" investment policy.  The UW Regent president Michael Grebe
called the divestment a business decision and refused to say whether the
divestiture had anything to do with the situation in Burma or pressure by
student groups.  TN970511 OA/4ED/010  

The University of Wisconsin is the first university in the world to divest
itself from a multinational corporation that does business with Burma.
Since 1994, UW owned 11,000 shares of preferred stock, worth $239,000 in
Texaco Corp.  UW has a new policy of balancing financial returns with
respecting ethics.  The Madison-based FBC has launched its local
divestment campaign pressuring UW Regents to divest from Texaco.  The move
was supported by community activists, lawmakers and students.  Currently
Texaco is involved in a natural gas concession off the coast of Burma in
the Andaman Sea.  burmanet970509 OL/4ED/005

Texaco chief executive Peter Bijur said at the company's annual
shareholders meeting that the company would consider selling its Andaman
Sea natural gas stake offshore Burma.  Burmanet970513 OL/4GH/002

In Burma inflation has topped 30%, the price of rice has doubled in one
year, foreign exchange reserves have dropped to the lowest level since
1988, exports are down and the national debt has reached 8 billion francs.
The IMF says Burma must devaluate its currency by 99% and initiate
structural reforms.  Despite official figures, foreign investment is
declining outside the oil and gas sector and tourism.  US cities have
rejected contracts of companies with operations in Burma and Human rights
organizations have initiated informal boycotts.  We must conclude that the
Europeans, especially the French, begin at boycott of Total.  
Of all the countries in EU, France can least afford to remain indifferent
to Human rights violations.  Total continues to work on the pipeline and
France publicises Visit Myanmar Year.  burmanet970510 OL/9L/003

Despite a tourism boycott supported by Aung San Suu Kyi, many tourists
can't resist the romantic image of Burma as a travel destination.  Some
tourists know about the boycott and come in an effort to better understand
Burma.  Some tourists try to support family-run hotels and restaurants in
an effort to avoid giving the Slorc money.  Other tourists don't know
about the boycott, but have come searching for adventure and the beautiful
sights at Pagan.  BP970515 OA/4CF/010

Thai-Burma border disputes
Burma is erecting wooden posts in the Moei River to retaliate against
Thailand's construction of a concrete embankment to prevent riverbank
erosion.  Myawaddy town protested against Thailand last week claiming that
Thailand's wall will destroy a newly formed island in the middle of the
river.  Burmese Sports Minister Sein Win ordered the erection of wooden
poles 100 meters from the riverbank.  The Thai-Burmese Border Committee
passed an agreement that neither Thailand nor Burma will erect stakes in
the Moei River, but Myawaddy has already erected wooden posts and build
concrete embankments at 39 points in the river.  BP970511 OA/9J/020

Burmese authorities in Myawaddy have agreed to stop digging a new Moei
River water channel in Tambon Sai Luad of Mae Sot district.  The Burmese
representatives accepted that local officials had no authority to make any
decision that would lead to changes in the border and that the digging of
the water channel had encroached on Thai soil.  BP970515 OA/9J/021

Opposition groups, activism and NGOs 
The Burma Action group call on supporters to increase pressure on the
junta and on companies and tour operators who choose to continue business
in Burma.  Details their activities on lobbying the British government and
the EU to take a harder line on trade and investment and the launching of
their boycott campaign against British Home Stores after they refused to
stop importing clothes from Burma which was successful.  The tourism
boycott remains a priority.  970509 OL/10G/011

A fact sheet about the Democratic Party for a New Society, the second
largest democratic opposition party in Burma, next to the NLD.  Describes
the DPNS's political stand, aims & objectives, background history, and the
present situation and activities of the DPNS.  burmanet970510 OL/9B/003

Environmental groups, Burmese political activists and Jesse Jackson's
Rainbow-Push Coalition plan to descend on Texaco's annual shareholder
meeting in Rye Brook NY on May 13.  A number of organizations will protest
outside the meetings while other groups will address the shareholder
meeting.  Texaco faces an $800 million to $1 billion lawsuit for polluting
rivers and land and displacing Amazon Indians.  Last year, Texaco
shareholders rejected calls to pull out of Burma, but since then the US
has imposed sanctions against Burma, Unocal has been sued, and city and
public sector and state pension funds have indicated they are considering
divesting from companies that operate in Burma.  Texaco indicated that it
was not necessarily committed to Burma and they can get out with a profit
now.  burmanet970509 OL/9L/004

Human rights violations
Reports of arrest and beatings.  So_Nou@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx OL/11B/001